Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Long-Unawaited Fusion Post (with some observations on collaborative tweeting)

(Warning - this post may not be succinct. And it's technically not all-encompassing. So sue me. Or not.)

Going into Larry Ellison's keynote presentation on Wednesday, November 14, there was a lot of speculation regarding what he would say. Mark Brunelli captured the pre-speech speculation sentiment:

What is Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s big announcement going to be when to takes to the stage for his keynote address later today?...

Ellison likes to drop major bombs whenever he gets on that stage. Last year he announced that Oracle would undercut Red Hat Linux, which was a pretty big deal.

This year, a story written by my colleague Barney Beal...quoted Chuck Rozwat, Oracle’s senior vice president of application development, “…we clearly said we would begin shipping Fusion applications in 2008. Stay in tune the next couple days; you’ll here more about that.”

But before Ellison took the stage, we got Billy Joel:

For the final Oracle OpenWorld keynote, singer Billy Joel, part of the evening entertainment lineup, introduced Larry Ellison, who is celebrating 30 years at the helm of the company he co-founded.

Incidentally, several of us were tweeting throughout the entire keynote and echoing our tweets to the oow Twitter account. Here is how the Twitterverse documented the arrival of the Piano Man:

Radu43: was expecting Larry and I get Billy Joel. 01:44 PM November 14, 2007 from web

momktg: gotta love billy. 01:44 PM November 14, 2007 from web

kitson: Watching Billy Joel make a surprise intro for Larry "Big Red" Ellison. 01:44 PM November 14, 2007 from web

oemperor: billy joel? 01:44 PM November 14, 2007 from web

oemperor: and then they play lenny kravitz when ellison enters 01:46 PM November 14, 2007 from web

After talking about Unbreakable Linux, Ellison transitioned to a discussion of the previously-announced Oracle VM, noting that Oracle was previously supporting the Red Hat product, but now was branching out and supporting something that Red Hat did not support.

And Oracle VM was clearly from Oracle:

kitson: Anyone counting how many times Larry refers to Oracle VM with the phrase, "We put a lot of engineering into this"? I'm up to 4 a ... ... 01:52 PM November 14, 2007 from web

And what else did Ellison say about fusion? Back to Brunelli:

The first set of Oracle Fusion Applications are called Sales Prospector, Sales References and Sales Tools, Oracle founder Larry Ellison told a huge crowd at Oracle OpenWorld 2007 today.

Ellison said the three salesforce automation applications, which are based on existing Siebel tools, are coming out as planned during the first half of 2008.

And they are standards-based:

eddieawad: Larry: fusion apps r built on standards-based middleware with SOA 01:58 PM November 14, 2007 from web

And there was a differentiation between the old and new (or, if you will, 2.0) sales force applications, with Ellison noting that old applications could be used for forecasting, while claiming that new applications would actually let you sell more.

And what about getting these applications to work with existing applications?

The company will also release pre-built integration packs for connecting the applications to existing Oracle systems, according to Ellison....

Ellison repeatedly stressed that users of Oracle's existing product lines will not be forced to migrate to Fusion because the company plans to make it easy to integrate the new applications. "If you continue with Oracle E-Business Suite for five years, it doesn't mean you can't use Fusion Applications," he said.

Justin Kestelyn offered some additional comments at the Oracle Technology Network blog:

The keynote included a nice demo of the Sales Prospector functionality that will be the centerpiece of Oracle Fusion SFA, one of the first three Fusion apps to be released. Oracle Fusion SFA features social networking functionality that allows salespeople to select and build presentation content based on shared experience (eg, a given preso may be highly rated by the community based on its effectiveness in a given scenario).

The demo, by the way, was not performed by Ellison himself, which led to something which was only evident to people in the keynote hall itself. I was watching the keynote on a TV in the Oracle PartnerNetwork Lounge, and therefore missed out on one item that was reported by the Twitterverse:

kitson: Hundreds of people walking out before the end of Larry's keynote. 02:16 PM November 14, 2007 from web

momktg: Larry left and people start leaving. 02:16 PM November 14, 2007 from web

In essence, all of the people that left missed the demo - and also missed Ellison's question and answer session afterwards. And these people missed a very nice user interface, as momktg, eddieawad, Radu43, and planspark noted. (As for me, I haven't seen any sales force applications, so I didn't know whether this was any better or worse than any other.)

But Lewis asked a question after the fact:

[T]he OVM announcement kind of caught me by surprise. I mean, why? Why does Oracle need a VM?

Lewis received a number of possible answers:

gamyers writes: 11/15/2007 #

...Customers want support for the stack, and Oracle can only give that if they can fix the source code in the stack....

Mikael writes: 11/15/2007 #

...Oracle now can support [its] software on a VM. Oracle has not previously certified any software on any virtual environment. This alone should be reason enough for any Oracle customer....

Vincent McBurney writes: 11/15/2007 #

...They want to prove that Oracle is cheaper to run and support than the competitors and that's easier to do if they control the operating system (unbreakable linux) and the VM software....

But there was another response that intrigued me, and frankly I need some more understanding before I can comment on this:

Marcelo Ochoa writes: 11/16/2007 #

...Oracle VM is based on Xen Paravirtualization which differs from VMWare, Virtual Box and MS Virtual PC approach in the level of OS interception.

It requires guest operation system modification, but AFAIK with this technique the overhead is only around 0.1-3.5% compared to 10-15% of VMWare for example.

I'm not a Xen Oracleist, however, so I'll leave comments on Xen to others.

So what does this mean for VMware? Turns out Peter Griffin attended the subsequent (WHOOPS, PREVIOUS) VMware session that I attended, but Griffin caught the nuances of VMware's position (I admit that I was not up to date on the whole fusion controversy thingie):

Presenting to a room packed with IT managers at Oracle OpenWorld yesterday, VMware’s vice-president Brian Byun did his best to remain diplomatic. He said numerous VMware customers were running Oracle, which supported VMware in its “software stack” and stressed the savings that virtualisation in general can provide for companies suffering from “server sprawl”.

And Brian Byun said more on Thursday:

The problem, VMware says, is not Oracle's apparent pulling of support for its applications on virtualisation platforms other than their own Oracle VM, which it announced on Monday, but its unwillingness to reform its software licensing policies, which would force customers adopting virtualisation to pay many times more.

"Customers are not trying to pay less, they just don't want to pay eight or ten times more," said Brian Byun, vice-president of global partners and solutions for VMware, in an interview on Thursday. "That's the larger issue at hand."

For instance, a company that runs an Oracle database in a VMware virtual machine and wishes to port that single instance from one physical server to another would technically be forced to buy an additional Oracle license for each physical server used, Byun said. Or if an application in a VM is apportioned to use only 1 out of 4 CPUs in a server, the company would still have to buy a license for an entire server.

"That doesn't make sense," he said.

But the new Oracle applications aren't ready yet, and Om Malik noted a possible hurdle that Oracle will have to overcome:

VMWare, the server and PC virtualization company that went public this summer, is hiring all the engineers it can find. Ann Winblad, a general partner at venture capital firm Hummer Winblad, recently quipped:

“As much as we all love [VMWare CEO] Dianne Green, we have to figure out a way of stopping VMWare from hiring all the engineers in the Valley.”

More on Winblad's comments from Tom Foremski, who was on the panel with Winblad:

This is something I have heard from others too over the past few weeks. VMware's thirst for engineering talent seems to be unlimited as it continues development of its hugely successful virtualization software.

A POSTSCRIPT: As you may know, I have been experimenting with the use of Twitter as a business tool, and performed some massive tweeting in three separate sessions. However, in retrospect, it appears that a collaborative approach to such coverage works better, especially if the session being covered is a high interest session receiving inputs from several people. In addition, it definitely helped that all of the coverage could be accessed from a single Twitter source (in this case, the @oow account). My "lesson learned" from this is that the best way to cover an event via Twitter is as follows:

  • Set up a Twitter account to the event itself.

  • Set up a mechanism to allow individual Twitter users to contribute to the account.

  • Read the feed, and enjoy.
But, as usual, I am not trendy in realizing this. If you are interested in this topic, I strongly urge you to read the following:

Dennis Howlett, Redefining relationship through a collaborative Twitter project

Jeff Nolan, Twitter Thoughts

Andrew McAfee, Sharp Responses to Flat Communities

A SECOND POSTSCRIPT: I still have one more Oracle OpenWorld post banging around in my head. I still want to dig in to the eleven points that Tom Kyte made in his presentation.

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